The Princess Has Left The Room

Holding the silky white pieces of fabric, shaped like medieval banners, tinged in pink with golden symbols and connected to each other with soft pink ribbon, was causing my heart to ache. This fabric of childhood dreams and fantasy, once the subject of delight and joy needed to be folded and put away. This banner accompanied by light purple, gauzy draperies wrapped around the posts of a four poster bed, once daintily draped the top of my daughter’s white canopy bed. The fabric, slightly faded and stained, was showing it’s age.

I embraced the solemness of the moment as I folded. I gave myself permission to reminisce and honor the princess who once slept and dreamed of her kingdom in a bed adorned by princess draperies, It was time to accept the princess was no longer in residence.

Watching little princesses grow into strong, confident women is not a new experience for me. This was the fourth princess in my life to disappear. I knew to not be shocked or even surprised, but darn it if this moment didn’t catch me by surprise and take my breath away for just a moment.

This casual moment of redecorating, changing the princess canopy out for shiny, colorful marbleized globe lights, was placed too close in a week’s timeline that began with dropping the next oldest sister at college in North Carolina. Time, slippery and unforgiving, was continually marching forth, changing princesses to teenagers to college undergrads. I was feeling the full force of it and it was causing my heart to hurt.

I calmed my heart and finished my work. I took a moment to survey the bedroom and understand I needed to make space for new memories. The princess may have left the room, but a beautiful, artistic, blossoming young woman was taking residence. She is making this former Princess bedroom her own. She is in the process of finding her voice and unique sense of style. If I’m lucky, if I pay attention closely, she will invite me to her world and show me all the goodness that can be found there.

The princess may have left, but the kingdom remains cloaked in globe lights, photos of friends, dirty clothes, books, an overstuffed school backpack, pointe shoes, strength, and beauty. She is destined for greatness.

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I love you but your room is a mess…..

My youngest daughter Sierra has a beautiful gentle soul and loves to draw. She composes poetry, short stories and essays as ritualistically as breathing. She has the voice of a songbird, delicate, light and often imperceptible. She is blonde, beautiful, long-legged and swiftly surpassing me and her sisters in height. Sierra’s beautiful, uniquely wonderful qualities are beginning to mix with a disastrously messy room. She is standing on the brink of womanhood alternately embracing then running from the experience. She is thirteen going on fourteen.

My youngest son, Aidan helps me through the transition of his slightly older sister. His is 10 going on 11 and sees the world with clear, introspective eyes.His hormones have not erupted into a drill sergeant directing his thoughts and actions, at least, not yet.As the youngest of six, he has observed his teenage siblings with awe, wonder, and compassion. He understands them in a way many parents can not, and routinely offers me advice.

Aidan and I developed a little game to entertain ourselves during our journey between his sisters’ school drop off and the 15 traffic lights (I’ve counted them) to his school. A typical morning drive to school generally summons a reminder to play.

Slam! our car shudders in response to the departure of Sierra and her 17 year old sister. Hunched by the weight of their backpacks, they slog up the few steps to the school door. Disgust and exhaustion compete for top billing on their faces. I watch them briefly, sigh, and remember when they would skip instead of slump. The game commences.

“Have a nice day!” “Thanks Mom for the ride!” “Love you!” Aidan and I chant appropriate responses for the girls. We offer up the thank you for them, knowing it has been buried in the temporary darkness invading their hearts.

Aidan finishes the round of play. “I will never be that way Mom, I promise. I will NOT get the teenage disease.”

The Teenage Disease: Aidan’s artfully coined term that guides one needing to learn to live with young adults in transition.

The teenage disease grants perspective. I can detach from the emotional onslaught of anger, bitterness and joy that often shows up in waves within a short 30 minute car ride. These emotions are only symptoms. Remembering the afflicted reminds me to offer compassion instead of judgement. It summons portions of the endless amounts of patience required of a mother of teens.
The teenage disease.

It has many symptoms: depression, moodiness, exhaustion, hunger, disorganization, strength, intense focus, deep introspection, and creativity. The often troubling concern with the teenage disease is that these symptoms can all be experienced within a 24 hour period, and often with great intensity. As a care provider to sufferers of the teenage disease, I generally measure its level of influence by walking into a patient’s bedroom or glancing into their school backpack. Each venue offers a true reflection of the internal struggle. The morning car ride often also serves as a quick assessment.

What Aidan and I discuss as we drive past those 15 stop lights is that this disease will not win. It is not terminal. Sure, it takes hold, often raging body and mind for years, but it does subside and the patient will be restored. Mercifully, the victims of the teenage disease often experience short periods of remission, little futuristic glimpses of a restored whole person more incredible than anything we could ever hope for. It’s a long, arduous battle fighting the teenage disease, but with love, patience, prayer, and lots of pizza, we always win.

Christmas in July

It happened in one quick moment. I was making the egg salad. My two youngest kids and I were chatting about the need to keep tabs on the dog who recently had taken to leaving “presents” throughout the house.

“I don’t want her leaving “presents” in the living room”, I said. “It’s just not good”.

“Yeah”, my 10 year-old son agreed. Always ready for a dose of potty humor, he added, “No presents unless you’re Santa Claus”. We laughed.

I paused before adding my signature dill. A parenting moment had popped up and was staring me in the face. It was actually waving its arms to get my attention. I tried to dismiss it, but knew it wouldn’t go away easily.

I never officially had “the Santa Claus” talk with my youngest two kids. I listened to my internal argument, “not now, you don’t won’t to steal their childhood”. I looked at my beautiful, blonde, almost 13 year-old daughter, and “I swear did he grow again” son and felt my mother’s denial lose its grip.

It’s July. I always addressed this issue during summer months with my older kids. It always seemed less traumatic six months out, rather than in the midst of the holidays. But surely they already know, I argued with the nagging prod logic to broach the subject. Should I even bother? My internal argument of denial revived, until I silenced it with one quick question.

“What do you guys think about Santa Claus”?

Silence.

I noticed my daughter steal a look at her brother.

“I mean, who do you think Santa really is?” I stirred in the dill imagining the despair of crushed fantasies.

Silence.

It was dreadfully awkward. My stupid question had lit a bomb in the kitchen and we were quietly waiting for it to blow. How could I allow the destruction of childhood fantasy to be served with a side of pasta salad and corn dog? I was an awful mother!

My dear, sweet, youngest son, ever conscious of my emotional state, stepped up and filled the void. He would throw himself on the bomb.

“I think…..” he said pausing just long enough to turn, face me, and produce a mischievous smile. “….it’s Mommy Claus and Daddy Claus.”

I began to relax. His sister, however, did not respond. She waited.

“And, what do you think?” I asked re-lighting the fuse, while she silently munched and stared at her plate. She is an artistic dreamer, a believer in fairy tales and fairies, the world is magic in her eyes. I felt the cruelness of pushing the issue, but I had to didn’t I? I looked away, afraid to watch the destruction of her child-like spirit. Waiting for the bomb to explode.

A bit of silence. She stared at her plate, I returned to the egg salad. I sensed a keen awareness of a unified, quiet dance around the truth. Were we both afraid to close the door on yet another landmark of child-like innocence? I had to take the lead.

“Sierra, who do you think Santa Claus is?”

“Well…. I don’t think he could possibly be one person”, she offered. I relaxed. She smiled at me. She knew.

I was so relieved. My conversation bomb was filled with feathers. Their pysche was intact.

“When did you guys figure out who Santa really was”?

“A few years ago”, admitted my son.

” I think it was the year that Santa’s presents were wrapped with the same wrapping paper that you used for Dad’s presents”, my daughter said.

“Why didn’t you say something?” I asked.

“Because it’s fun to believe”, she said. My son agreed.

We discussed logistics of Christmas presents. We discussed cultural traditions and the symbolism of Christ’s birth connected to St. Nicholas. We recalled the fun of “playing the Santa Claus game” as pre-schoolers and Kindergarteners. We ate the rest of our lunch and planned out our day.

After lunch, we went outside to mow, rake, and collect grass trimmings for our massive yard. Yard work provides lots of time for thinking. As I worked in the hot sun, side by side with my youngest children, I had a small revelation.

My babies, the “little kids” weren’t really little any longer. Somehow, without me consciously realizing it, these two slipped from childhood into the lives of young adults. Thank goodness for Santa Claus. He showed up in our kitchen unexpectedly today, and dropped off one last gift for me. Well done.

Penguin Sweater

I got a penguin sweater for Christmas. My daughters and I were shopping at Kohl’s when I first saw it. With a fluffy white tummy and silver sparkly bow tie, I couldn’t think of any prouder honor than to sport this fat penguin on a cold, snowy day.

My teenage daughter, fashion consultant, cautioned against it.

“But, it’s SO CUTE!” I countered.

The Penguin Sweater

The Penguin Sweater

The older daughter, having lived through more of these episodes than her younger sibling, and having let go of the hope of transforming me into a fashion forward maven, said they would alert my husband.

I left the sweater hanging on the rack, secretly hoping we would meet again.

I’ve come to realize, that such a powerful fashion accessory as the coveted penguin sweater takes careful moderating. We’ve had, like most of the country, a particularly snowy, blustery winter. I could have easily worn my penguin sweater every day. Conscious of the cautioning of my daughters, I’ve had to choose selectively when to go all penguin. It’s been a struggle.

It’s now near the end of February and old man winter is not letting up. I’ve read the depressed Facebook posts of friends regarding winter, the braggarts’ posts of basking in the Florida sun, but I’m not saying a word. Sure winter has it’s downside, but when else can you wear your favorite penguin sweater?

So bring on the snow! Blow all the arctic air my way! Slushy streets, salt trucks, and icy patches? No problem. I’m rocking my penguin sweater!

I won!

Image

Photo Credit: Micah Spoerndle, photographer extraordinaire

I jumped into the water and it paid off. I read about a writing contest sponsored by a fellow WordPress blogger and knew I had to submit. I keep saying, “Someday, I’ll get around to submitting work”, but never do. I usually have a thousand excuses, none of which really hold water. The contest deadline was scheduled for my daughter’s birthday. The submission detail easy and efficient. I opened an email, attached the file and clicked “send”.

Too late to retrieve it. It was out in cyberspace and the deed was done. Good for me! Or was it?

My effort was rewarded. My work recognized. Thank you, Luann for sponsoring this contest. Thank you for encouraging me to remember writing is meant to be shared. Thank  you for my honorable mention.

Read more here: http://writersite.org/2013/09/30/honorable-mention-for-ian/

Feeling blessed